One of the most useful tools of any business is the quintessential employee manual or handbook. It is a manual that is given to new employees on being hired, as a means to acquainting them with the company procedures, functions and policies. It is the most essential communication tool between the company and the employee.
The employee manual should be designed with a lot of thought and only those policies that are specific to the organization should be given and not general policies, making sure it is in an easily readable compact form.
Some of the main policies that may be included are:
To make new employees feel at home, most companies start with a warm welcome note from the CEO, which includes important details about the company; the creation, mission statement, goals as well as the role of employees in achieving those goals.
Orientation process may include having the employee read the manual completely and some companies also allow new employees to use some office time in the first few days for reading it and schedule a conference to answer any questions they may have. Many employers also get an acknowledgment signed by the employee stating that the employee manual has been read and understood.
The employee manual should contain the following basic policies of the company:
Attendance: This can be included to avoid any confusion over attendance expectations. Every company expects employees to arrive at the work place prior to the scheduled start time and be engaged with their work by the start time. Details of how time off should be requested and sick leave details are also outlined in this manual. Attendance is considered by many companies as an important facet of job performance.
Use of workplace technology: The employee manual should clearly state what is expected of them, where usage of company technology is concerned. It should be made known that the company equipment should not be used for personal use; including the internet, laptops, telephones etc., without prior approval. If the company does not want them to download software, music or pornography, that should be stated too. If companies use tracking software to find out what each employee is doing, employees should be informed about it.
Confidentiality: If the company is dealing with sensitive information, this policy can be added in the employee manual, and employees told of their obligations and that any failure to comply with the policy can result in disciplinary action, which may include termination.
Dress code: The need for a dress code varies from company to company. This clause can be added to stress the importance of presenting a professional and clean appearance. The list of do’s and don’ts should be clearly indicated.
Other general policies could include, discipline, safety at work, sexual harassment, smoking, substance abuse, performance reviews and ground for dismissal etc.
After the general policies section comes the compensation and policies.
Compensation and Policies
Payroll: A good idea is to outline all the payroll processing options, if there is a different cycle being followed for different sections of employees. Any deductions that will be made, such as Income Tax, Federal Social Security etc. should all be mentioned in the employee manual.
Work hours and reporting: Mention of the normal workday and hours per week is made in the employee manual. Rules pertaining to overtime should also be given. If the employees need to punch-in and out, then the rules clarifying that they cannot use some other employees time-clock etc. should be clearly stated.
Holidays and vacation: Employees at all levels look forward to holidays. Employee manual contains a list of days recognized as holidays for the company as well as the payment policies for those days, whether it is an unpaid or paid holiday, whether floating holidays will be carried forward etc.
The vacation policy letting the employers know of the company requirements should be entered in the employee manual. This should define the eligibility for vacations, the accrual rate of the vacations, carryover policy and about any unused vacation.
Then comes details about sick leave, family and medical leave, maternity leave and any other leaves.
The policies included in an employee manual are not fixed and differ from company to company and provide the framework within which an organization bases its relations with the employees. This guide helps not only the employees but also the managers in applying policies consistently.
The only thing that organizations need to keep in mind is that any written record can be used against the company in case of a lawsuit. This is the reason; policies have to be well drafted and properly phrased.
Employee manual stands as one of the most important documents that give the employee a glimpse of the professionalism of the organization, its functioning, and a clear understanding of their role.